17 Apr 2012
Bantam is the publisher of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series, even if you haven’t read the books, there is a good chance that you have seen the HBO series, Game Of Thrones. The series of books is huge, consisting so far of five thick books with at least two more planned. Each of these books is divided into numerous points of view, and the story itself is getting so unwieldy that readers rarely see their favorite characters. One reaction to this would be to suggest more editorial oversight, but I have little expertise in that department. Instead, I would suggest that the publisher makes sure that they profit from it.
After the series is finished, imagine a massive e-book edition of ASoIaF (call it the Perfect Collection or Ultimate Edition or something) that contains all of the books. Now, let the fans remix the books. Not rewrite them or modify the text, but rather the ability to rearrange the chapters. Imagine reading only the Tyrion chapters or the Jaime chapters, with no interruptions, or only the chapters of peripheral characters. I realize that you could do this with paper books by skipping the chapters that you don’t want to read, but it would be a pain in the ass. In addition, fans could release ‘playlists’ of the book that other people who have purchased the uber edition could then view.
Of course, this wouldn’t need to come cheap, say $50 or $100 per license. Imagine everyone who has already purchased the entire series going out and buying the whole thing over so that they can remix it.
Personally, I don’t actually expect the publishing industry to do anything like this. They will almost certainly say that it is too difficult or too expensive, if they consider it at all. Fortunately, what we are talking about here isn’t video or music, but text, which is notoriously hard to control (or as Cory Doctorow says: “Behold . . . the typist!”), so whether or not Bantam wants my money, I’ll be able to get it.